Creston Meets the Bow and Arrow
The speck in the distance
started to head for the high ground. It
would be a good place to settle for camp
that night, thought Brohurst. He dismounted
and walked over to his companion sitting
crossed legged on the ground. "Is that him,
Goldamn could pick out a flying
lizard in a flock on the horizon of a desert
and have the drib for supper. "I believe so,
the horse matches what we were told to look
for, and so does the rider."
"Tell me what you see," said
"The man is of a dark skin,
brown. It looks natural and not from
spending time in the sun. His hair is black
and stretches to a short beard. I think I
see hair above the lips. I cannot tell his
height for his sits on his mount but he
seems slightly taller than most. The horse
is black with a white nose."
Brohurst smiled. Yes, that did
fit the description of their prey. It is
almost to easy. But it gave them a chance to
practice their skills. They have been
tracking this man for three days and he has
given them a good hunt. But they are trained
Masters in the Mercenary Guild. He is,
Brohurst the Arrow, 35th Degree Archer and
20th Degree Spear man, trained in the
Martial Arts at the City of Kothos. And his
partner Goldamn the Bow, Master Tracker.
Nothing could hide from his eyes.
Fate had already decided this
game. They would capture this man and return
him to their employer, receive their bounty
and be on their way.
Creston pulled his horse to a
stop as he approached the crop of trees at
the top of the hill. Tired and hungry, this
seemed to be as good a place as any to camp.
He dismounted and looked at his
surroundings. The top of a hill with about
twenty or so trees cresting the top, a green
meadow stretching across one side and an
assortment of tall bushes came up scattered
in bunches up the other side. The grass was
thigh high, green and sweet smelling. The
sunset had reddened the sky as it touched
the ground in the horizon. He pulled out
some dried meats and fruit from his pouch
and settled under the trees.
He thinks he sees movement in
the distance. Something on the horizon?
Can't be sure. Nothing, he decides and
starts his meal. When done he made a small
fire and found somewhere to lay his head. He
pulled out his sword, closed his eyes and
was soon asleep, dreaming of Atina.
He met Atina in the last town
he had cause to visit. She was everything he
wanted in a woman. At least for as long as
he would be in town. Unfortunately her
father took unkindly to Creston not wishing
to become his son-in-law despite having
already consummated the relationship. After
a small scuffle in which Creston disarmed
the distraught father and knocked senseless
Atina's protective uncle, he decided it was
time to find another town or city to grace
with his presence.
While he lived over some of his
more pleasurable memories with Atina's dream
self, there came a sudden pain in his ribs,
jarring him awake.
"Move slowly," came from the
other end of the spear probing his ribs. The
man controlling the spear had a larger build
than Creston. The red skin of his face was
covered with a thick blond mustache and
beard. The braided metal chest plate and
earth colored loincloth and sandals he wore
identified him as a member of the Mercenary
Guild, and pretty high rank. Another man is
seated on a mount just outside the
Creston is not a member of the
Guild but he did know a few of their signals
that should protect one member from another,
if presented with just this kind of
situation. His hand gave the signal that
would reveal him as a guild member. The man
with the spear lowered it but still kept it
ready as he reached to give Creston a hand.
Creston knew that this is the second part of
the signal and he would have to grasp the
offered hand in the correct manner to prove
his membership or the spear would be back in
his ribs. He took the hand with his little
finger tucked inside the rest and was pulled
to his feet.
The man must have accepted his
grasp as the correct reply for his face
suddenly brightened and he said, "A brother
of the Guild is always a welcome sight, from
where do your ride?"
Creston relaxed a bit, but
realized that went to easy. There may be
more signals he didn't know about and he
didn't know how far he could keep that up.
He walked towards his horse keeping an eye
on the man still in the shadows, "From a
small town about three days travel to the
south, I decided the climate up north would
suit me better, considering the time of the
year." He pulled out a dripskin of wine and
offered it to the warrior, "and who has the
pleasure of sharing my wine?"
The other man dismounted and
started tying down his mount as the first
introduced them, "I am Brohurst the Arrow,
and this is my friend and companion, Goldamn
the Bow, Brothers of the Guild and loyal
comrades in arms. We are in service of a
merchant who wishes the head of someone who
has wronged his family honor. The local
guard refused to become involved so he hired
Creston shrugged and said, "I
am not in anyone's service at the moment.
Looking for employers is not as easy as it
was during the God Wars of our father's day
or even that of the Empire wars of the east.
Everyone wanted trained warriors then. Peace
in this region has reduced me to dried meats
and whatever game happens to grace the end
of my arrows."
Goldamn came to the fire with
them. He stood as tall as Creston and about
the same build. He is dressed the same as
Brohurst, clean shaven, and green eyes. He
has a tattoo of an eagle next to his left
eye. Creston took his hand in the customary
Guild fashion and introduced himself to the
"We know who you are. We have
been tracking you for three days brother. As
I said, we have a contract with the merchant
to bring you back, we didn't know you were a
brother when we made the contract. And you
know that fact must not matter. A guildsman
must honor his contract. You may have the
trial if you wish, and while you are young
and probably quick, both Goldamn and I would
Sounded like the usual boast to
Creston, but he was unarmed and didn't know
the rules of this trail. But it seemed to be
his only chance at the moment. His choices
seemed to be give in to what they say or go
through this trial and maybe get off. He
looked at Brohurst and said, "Trial."
Brohurst smiled, "Choose your
weapon. You are challenging a Master, so the
weapon of choice is yours."
Creston replied, "Knives."
As a young man in his homeland
of Bastoon he had been in a Cashton. A group
of youngsters roaming the pathways of the
village under the guise of protecting
certain sections of the village for their
own from the other cashtons. Knifes are the
preferred weapon and the initiation into a
cashton is the procurement of a knife from a
member of a rival cashton, always taken by
skill with the blade. It usually ended in a
prominent scar, but a death is not
considered unusual. Creston had killed his
opponent. The boy was four summers his
senior and attacked him after Creston had
drawn first blood in a fair duel. Cashtons
are a right of passage to manhood in the
village of his birth. Once part of a
Cashton, you are always a part of it.
The firelight flickered the
only source of light and it touched lightly
on the blades as Goldamn and he faced off in
the small opening of the camp. Goldamn
smiled and moved to the left and tossed the
blade into his other hand and then back
again. He seemed to be just as good with one
as the other. But Creston learned long ago
not to concern himself with the hand holding
the blade as much as the blade itself.
Creston stood on the balls of his feet and
shifted his weight back and forth waiting
for an attack. His usual style is defensive.
Analyze the attack and counter. It had held
for him in the past, but he had never fought
a master before.
Suddenly Goldamn's blade shot
out towards Creston's right shoulder.
Creston dropped the should under the blade
while sending his knife up at the underside
of Goldamn's arm. Goldamn grabbed his hand
with his free hand was off balance and
Creston rested his hand free and fell back
to give himself some distance again. Goldamn
switched hands and moved in forcing Creston
to parry several thrusts. Goldamn was fast
and it took Creston a moment to set up a
move where he spun around outside Goldamn's
strike hoping to attack Goldamn's exposed
side. Goldamn escaped by falling into the
momentum of his strike rolling and spinning
to face Creston again, with a smile on his
face. "Good move," said Brohurst from the
sidelines, "but the Bow is just testing you
as you test him."
Creston ignored the commentary
and feinted cautiously to the right, then
leaped at Goldamn with a fierce cry. Goldamn
grabbed Creston's arm as he came at him and
used the force of Creston's leap to carry
him past and into the tall grass. Creston
rose out of the grass and came to his feet
to see Goldamn smiling again. He felt a
breeze and looked down. Goldamn had cut off
his loin cloth as he threw him to the ground
leaving Creston nude.
He was playing with him.
Creston cursed and lunged again at the Bow.
Goldamn sidestepped the thrust and hit
Creston in the back of the head with the
haft of his knife. Creston got up slowly and
rubbing the spot where he was hit. He is
being played with and he doesn't like it.
Creston growled, "Do you plan
on playing with me to prove something or are
we going to hold this trial to something
besides a mockery of combat? I will most
certainly kill you if you continue to taunt
me with these insult blows, no matter how
the trial ends."
Goldamn smiled and Brohurst
called out again, "Spoken like a true
Guildsman. But if you cannot even draw blood
in the trial, how do you plan on killing in
a true battle for life. I believe you had
better worry about--"
He was cut short by Creston
throwing his knife towards him. Brohurst
fell and rolled in the grass to his left
coming up cursing, "By the balls of Kavon."
Goldamn had been as surprised
as his companion at the change in direction
of Creston's attack. Which made him less
prepared for Creston's silent charge,
crashing into the larger man with all his
speed and strength. Both went rolling in the
grass in a tumble of legs, arms, grunts and
curses. Creston went for the knife because
he knew his to be somewhere on the ground
behind him. Goldamn tried to untangle
himself from an unexpected attack.
But Goldamn was an experienced
warrior and never really lost control of his
weapon. Creston soon found himself beneath
Goldamn as his opponent used the leverage he
gained in the struggle to get the upper
hand. He pressed the knife towards Creston's
neck. Creston used all his strength to hold
the knife at bay. At the last second he
twisted his body and let the knife fall into
the soft dirt underneath his head, while
using the leverage he gained by the twist of
his body to push Goldamn off of him.
As he scrambled, looking for
his knife in the tall grass, he heard
Goldamn right himself with a grunt. As he
reached for his own knife he saw a flash of
firelight cut his hand and imbed itself into
the ground next to his knife. It was
Goldamn's knife that the light reflected
from as it cut his hand from the throw of
it's master. Brohurst's spear cut him off
from both knives, and the look on the man's
face was one of humor.
Creston looked at the small cut
in his hand and cursed. He had lost. He
heard Brohurst laughing loudly, "That was a
very good trick. Throwing the focus of
violence to surprise Goldamn. I would like
to know how you knew I would dodge the
blade. But it doesn't matter, the end of the
battle was obvious. For as I told you, you
are fighting a Master. It takes more than a
few tricks to defeat a Master trained in the
fine art of war by the Kothians. Those
witches make good warriors as well as
Creston picked up his knife and
started to clean the blade off the dirt that
had clung to it from being imbedded in the
ground. He walked over to his loincloth and
put it on also. "I will give you your due. I
have lost in a fair combat and will give you
no trouble. So I must endure the stale wit
and ugly face of Yalpsid again so that a
Guild member may collect his silver."
"No need to insult us with the
taunt of silver monger. You lost in a fair
duel, so you are subject to the whims of
your master," said Brohurst. "A member of
the Guild may make his way selling any for
whom there is a bounty, even another member
of the Guild. If you are a true member of
the Guild, you will escape the dealings of
Yalpsid after we are gone, so it matters not
what we do."
"I have always had a problem
with those who would force me to call them
master," answered Creston, "so let us get on
with your fantasy."
"Oh ho," said Brohurst in a
surprised tone. "It seems that a lower
member of the Guild has no liking for
showing respect to his betters. May Somem
and Sgol, the gods of the Guild, have mercy
on your soul for such disrespect. Or may
haps we have an imposter of the Guild in our
"The truth be known, I am not a
member," answered Creston.
Brohurst replied, "If not for
the entertainment you supplied tonight and
the bounty we will collect in returning you,
the punishment for your actions would be
death. It may still be if I don't learn how
you knew of our Guilds signals. Speak or my
spear will cleanse you of the knowledge for
Creston smiled. "A woman of my
past had obviously bedded on of your
brethren. He was not as secretive of your
mysteries as you. She told me of how they
used to use the signals in love play. She
had missed the games they played after he
had left her and she saw not the need to
keep his oath of secrecy in his absence."
"`A brother's lips pried open
by the legs of a woman, and a woman's opened
by the key of a man's loins,'" said Goldamn.
"It may one day be the reason for the fall
of the civilization that man is trying to
create out of the chaos the gods have
brought forth for us to live in. The source
of a power between the legs of both man and
woman may one day bring us all down."
"Philosophy is for books,
courtiers and history, brother," replied
Brohurst, "we now have a bounty to collect."
He looked at Creston and said, "You will
forgive our need to tie you up for the
night. You are not of the Brotherhood and
may not feel a need to adhere to the
dictates of the duel."
Creston smiled at Atina when
she peeked out from behind the curtains. She
smiled and meekly waved. His hands are bound
behind his back and there is a noose around
his neck controlled by Brohurst. A very
effective way of keeping him in line. A
quick jerk of Brohurst's end effectively cut
off the air and blood to his head.
They had arrived in the town at
midday and immediately came to the Bow and
Arrow's employer's home. A one story wooden
building in the center of a town of similar
type buildings. His name, Yalpsid. A short
man, but made up for that by being very
wide. His plump cheeks and beady eyes are
surrounded by bushy eyebrows and mustache.
And his full lips crowned the weakest chin
Creston had ever seen.
"I see you have found the dog
and brought him to me." smiled Yalpsid,
"Well, it seems the great Bow and Arrow live
up to their reputations after all."
Goldamn frowned, "Who has been
saying different? I will split their bellies
open and feed them their intestines."
"No, no," answered the round
man, "I was speaking figuratively. No one
has besmirched your name. I was simply
overjoyed at your quick service."
"Indeed," replied Brohurst,
"The man has very little honor. He lied to
us, but we saw through his deceit and
brought him to you as promised. Now there is
a matter of payment. I believe the price was
30 coppers apiece and expenses. Well, we had
to use a copper for food to take and
"Yes, yes, all in due time,"
interrupted Yalpsid, "This dog is at my
feet. For what he has done to my family
honor, yet alone my poor daughter, I would
have paid anything."
"I'm not quite at your feet,
Yalpsid," said Creston, "I stand. And your
family had very little honor before I came
along. What passed between your daughter and
I was mutually enjoyed. This assumption that
"No one gave you permission to
speak," yelled Yalpsid, and he slapped
Creston across the mouth. "My daughter has
hidden in her rooms since you left her. I
would kill you now if I didn't want you to
suffer before death." He took Creston's face
in his pudgy hand and hissed, "And you will
Creston spat in his face. "Back
away from me, dog. You smell like dung, and
it's bad enough that I have to suffer your
presence let alone your smell." Brohurst
pulled on the noose and Creston is suddenly
choking. After he had fallen to his knees
from lack of air, the noose was loosened so
that he could breath.
"Show some respect for our
employer, dog." He turned casually towards
Yalpsid, "Now about payment."
"Yes," said Yalpsid, "but first
you must place our good friend here in the
custody of the magistrate. Seems that horse
out there is reported stolen, a crime
punishable by death in this town."
"In a snakes ass," interrupted
Creston, "I bought that horse for a good
price two days before I left."
"Odd," smiled Yalpsid, "my
brother, the blacksmith that you bought the
horse from? He says he loaned it to you
while you were in town because you were
courting his niece. He was shocked when he
heard that you were only using her to get a
free horse. Of course he turned your name
and description over to the proper
Creston glared at the fat old
man. Yalpsid turned to Brohurst, "You men
turn him over to the magistrate and meet me
over at the inn. Drinks are on me. I have a
couple of things to take care of and I'll be
Brohurst pulled at the noose
and the three of them turned to the door and
Creston had been in cells
before. This one is just like most of the
others. Most small towns had them to hold
undesirables that roam into towns on
occasion. It was an edict from the Hcrat
Empire that all towns have them to hold
people that are to be held for the Hcratian
Magistrate to judge. Part of the Hcratian
plan to build a civilized world or something
This one had your basic bucket
in the corner that is emptied once a day if
you are lucky and some dirty straw on the
stone floor. Wooden walls, no windows and
light when they open the little door in the
door that they threw him in. Shows how the
empire has influenced the small towns. A
source of pride in some towns is that they
have stone floors in their buildings, just
like Rebmec, the Capitol of the Hcrat
Empire. What stone floors on the local
dungeon really meant, was that you can't dig
your way out, a big problem when the
Hcratians first came up with the idea of
Creston shared this particular
cell with another man who had just finished
using the bucket in the corner. He said his
name is Bod and that he is here because he
gets intoxicated every three days and
usually insults, breaks, punches, or
otherwise damages something that is not his.
He never remembers the episode, but everyone
in towns assures him that he is doing it.
Bod blames most of his problems
on his wife. She happens to weigh a bit more
than he and it seems that she uses this
advantage very well in their lives. He is
the father of three children, (the
consummation of which he doesn't remember
Creston is just about to tell
Bod that he wasn't interested in hearing any
more about his family when the little door
let in some light. "Creston, Creston of
Bastoon, Stand forward and show yourself."
Creston stood at the door.
"Are you Creston of Bastoon?"
came from the other side of the door.
"I stood forward didn't I?"
The door opened and Creston
stepped into a room about the same size as
the one he just exited except it also had a
door on the other side, a table with a lit
candle and two chairs. The candle and the
table were partially blocked by a silhouette
of a woman. Creston smiled, "Atina!"
She smiled and rushed into his
arms. The man frowned, closed the door of
the cell and walked over to the other door.
He looked back and said, "I'll give you a
bit of privacy. Be quick with your good
byes, we haven't much time."
Atina turned and said, "Thank
you Larc. I won't forget this." The man
smiled and closed the door behind him.
"What are you doing here?"
"Aren't you glad to see me?"
Creston closed his eyes and
sighed, "Yes, of course. But if you hadn't
noticed, this isn't a woman's quarters. It's
a local dungeon."
"I know silly. That's why I'm
here. I'm gonna get you out."
Creston smiled, "Now wait a
minute Atina. It's not that I don't think
you can, but before you free me why don't
you tell me what you have planned."
"Well," answered Atina, "I saw
and heard what my father did to you and I
think it was terrible. And the lies he and
Uncle Barten told so that the Magistrate
would lock you up. I think it's this new
religion that's coming out of the Hcrat
Empire. The kinds of laws that they make! `A
Woman is not to enjoy the pleasures of the
body before getting the Scroll of Joining,
blessed by the Priesthood and the Empire,
joining her with a man.' It's a stupid law
and...well...it seems to me kind of odd that
men aren't included in that law. I mean it
doesn't seem quite fair. And if women aren't
suppose to, then who do men who aren't
Joined to a woman by the priests poke their
things into, the sheep in the fields? And
anyway, I enjoy men-"
Creston put his finger over her
mouth, "Your rambling. Get to the point."
"Anyway, when father found out
about Larc and I-"
"Larc?" Creston eyebrow lifted,
"You mean I wasn't the first?"
"No, your just the first father
liked. Larc's the first," she smiled, "but
father doesn't like him. It had become a
problem in our relationship. Father knew
Larc was courting me and that didn't please
Creston mumbled, "I wasn't the
"No, and your not listening to
me again. I hate it when you do that. I'm
trying to explain what happened."
"Yea, right. Larc's was first."
mumbled Creston again.
"Right. And father doesn't like
him. So naturally when you came along, with
copper for a new horse and more to stay at
the inn, father thought you would be a great
addition to the family. He was all over town
telling everyone how you would be his new
son and how great it would be to have a new
hand around the house. Me? I saw you as a
way to make Larc jealous enough to confront
father, which he said he would do once your
out of town." She smiled, pleased with
"So what's the plan?" asked
He didn't want any more of this
village and getting out had become a
priority. Responsibility for Atina was not
his and he refused to get involved. The best
answer to this was to get some distance
between him and the village.
"Larc knocked out the guard,
tied him up and has your horse waiting
outside. You simply get on and leave."
"What's to say your father
doesn't send the Bow and Arrow after me
"He can't. Do you know how long
it will take him to earn the copper to pay
off those two? He used our family fortune.
He wasn't kidding when he said he'd pay
anything. He doesn't have it again. Which,
by the way, makes Larc more attractive. His
father owns the local tavern."
Creston followed her outside to
find Larc standing there waiting for them.
He felt the need to do something memorable.
"Larc, you take care of this woman, or I'll
be back to take her for my own." And he
kissed her full on the lips until she
wrapped her arms around his neck and
returned it." He jumped onto his horse and
rode towards the edge of the village.
It had been three days since
Creston had rode out of the village and it
felt good to be in the open air again. He
had checked his pack and discovered that
nothing had been taken. He still had plenty
of foodstuffs. Atina had provided well.
He stopped at the zenith of a
small hill to scout out the surroundings.
There are a patch of trees that looked like
they had large branches and plenty of
foliage out in the distance so he decided he
would stop there for the night. There had
been no pursuit that he could see so he
thought that he was clear of the clutches of
Yalpsid. He rode nonstop for the past few
days, stopping only to water the horse and
Safe enough to rest for the
night, he thought. He set up camp and ate a
few pieces of jerky and drank some water to
wash it all down. Then he tied up the horse
for the night, climbed a tree and tied
together a hammock across a few of the lower
branches and settled in his self. He was low
in the branches and he had a full view of
the campsite but out of the light of the
He figured the hammock might
save him from any surprise visitors again.
He wasn't as sure of Atina's plans or her
father's to be entirely comfortable. After
he had been asleep for a while he is
awakened by his horse. Something had spooked
it. He opened his eyes and looked down at
the clearing and saw a figure running across
to his horse, untie it's harness and start
to lead it away.
A twig broke underneath him and
looked down below. Brohurst, looking for
something. Probably me, smiled Creston. So
the other must be Goldamn.
Were they stealing his horse?
Were they still in the payment of Yalpsid?
These and other questions went through
Creston's mind as he dropped from the branch
towards Brohurst, pulling out his knife as
he went down. Landing on him and hitting him
in the head with the haft of his knife,
Creston caught the man as he went down. One
down another coming, thought Creston.
He quickly cut off Brohurst's
belt and cut into strips, which he used to
secure the man's arms and legs. "Come out of
hiding, Goldamn," he called into the
darkness. "Out where I can see you and with
your hands in plain site, or I kill you
Creston felt a breeze come from
behind him and smelled the musk of a man on
it, "If you don't start making noise and
come out into the open, Brohurst is dead. I
shall count to three. One...two...thr-"
Goldamn came out from hiding in
foliage to his right side and said, "We came
in friendship, Creston. We saw and
disapproved of what the village dog did to
you. We simply wished to tell you this. We
tracked you as soon as they discovered the
next day that you were gone."
"And stealing my horse, and
sneaking in behind me a moment ago? There
wouldn't be another price on my head would
"Well, actually, there is. You
see, you escaped from a Hcrat sponsored
dungeon. It had a Hcratian Magistrate."
Creston hadn't thought about
that. But then he is wanted by more than one
Hcratian Magistrate for one reason or
another all over the empire. One more
wouldn't really matter. He is heading out of
the empire anyway. "I want my horse back and
a promise on your lodges honor that you will
not continue to track me."
"We will not continue to track
you because Brohurst and I are a team and
you have bested us. You defeated one of us,
so you defeat the both of us."
"I want you to swear on you
lodge's honor. I learned more than a
handshake between that woman's legs so many
seasons ago. A Master may not break a pledge
made on the honor of his lodge, or he
becomes a barbarian. I may not have it right
but you try to hard not to swear for me to
change my demand that you do." He brought
the knife to the neck of Brohurst who was
"Be still Brohurst, or you will
die by my hand."
Brohurst saw Goldamn standing
in the distance and immediately took in the
situation. He said, "How did you take me
"I have secrets too," answered
"He fell from the tree and hit
you with his knife haft," answered Goldamn.
Brohurst frowned as he tried to
move into a more comfortable position.
Creston adjusted the knife so that it would
cut Brohurst if he kept moving and so he
stopped. " You knew your were being
followed? You could be a valued member of
the Mercenary Guild. I could even sponsor
Goldamn watched this for a few
seconds and said, "He demands a Lodge Oath
that we will not follow him or track him for
the reward that the Magistrate has offered."
"No," interjected Creston, "I
demand one for your life. I will take my
chances with Goldamn after I have cut your
throat if I don't get one."
"I am offering you a membership
in the Guild man. You will have nothing to
fear if you become a member. We watch our
"I remember the way you watch
your own when you thought I was a member of
before." answered Creston. "I had to go
through a trial by blood that I still owe
you a cut for."
"I will not use a lodge oath to
save my life."
"But I will," said Goldamn.
"You have your oath. We will not follow or
make any attempt at capturing you. You have
the word of a Master Guildsman from the
"How dare you shame us in-"
"I will not let him kill you."
Creston looked surprised at
Goldamn. He is looking at Brohurst with a
painful expression that he had seen so many
times in the past. In the eyes of women who
professed love for him to keep him from
leaving their beds. Could it be? The
exchange between the two of them left no
question once Creston had let go of Brohurst
and allowed Goldamn to untie him. There was
an embrace and kiss that shocked Creston to
getting onto his horse and riding off.
They were to much into
themselves to even notice he was riding
away. The wages of civilization still puzzle
him. Men loving men in the ways of pleasure
was something he had only heard about, and
he was sure he didn't want to experience it.
Women worked out just fine for his tastes.
He would go west of the Empire, to the
wilderness of the peninsula. There were less
civilized people nearer his homeland and his
travels had shown him much.